The buzz over what's hot in apparel fashion is rubbing off on home furnishings. It used to take three years for high-fashion colors and patterns to journey from the runway to the living room. Now the lag is six months or less. Spurring this fast pace for home fashion change is the entry of couture designers into the market such as Tommy Hilfiger who recently put cargo-pants pockets on comforters. Consumers also are buying into the concept of a wardrobe for the home. More than one of three embarked on some sort of home-improvement or redecoration project this year.
LABOR SHORTAGE CONTINUES
Manpower Inc. surveyed 16,000 companies and found hiring plans continue strong well into next year. The problem is the labor shortage of 1999 is expected to continue, too. Some relief will be the tendency of Baby Boomers to continue working somewhere after they retire from their day jobs. While one-third of those 66 and over now work for pay, more than half of those age 53 to 65 say they expect to continue punching in after retirement. About 4.5 million workers now hold both a full-time and a part-time job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
ARE YOU A JUGGLER OR AN IDEALIST?
Just about all small business owners share two traits: optimism and a strong work ethic. But besides that their personalities fall into five distinct types, so says a survey by pollster Yankelovich Partners of 1,400 companies with a staff of two to 25.
• Idealists (24 percent) love their products or services, but hate running a business and do not want to own real estate.
• Optimizers (21 percent) focus on maximizing profit, but not necessarily to grow their companies.
• Hard Workers (20 percent) are most eager to enlarge their firms and are big on providing employee benefits.
• Jugglers (20 percent) constantly struggle to make ends meet and are big users of credit.
• Sustainers (15 percent) avoid credit and risk taking preferring to own rather than lease business sites.
E-COMMERCE GROWTH SPARKS TRENDS
The Better Business Bureau reports consumers did about 20 percent of their holiday shopping online. The Internet economy grew by 68 percent in the first quarter of 1999, according to a research report from the University of Texas, with sales expected to top $500 billion for the year. E-commerce growth has spawned two other trends:
• Calls for e-taxes: A coalition of governors and mayors has created its own plan for a levy on cybersales even though U.S. Congressional action in 1998 provided a three-year moratorium on new taxes for the Internet.
• E-advertising: Web advertising was expected to reach $3 billion in 1999.
KEEP PRODUCTS MOVING
How would you like to sell products in your inventory before you even pay for it? That's what the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is doing. The practice is known as vendor-financed inventory. Currently 63 percent of Wal-Mart's inventory sells before the bills have to be paidÑthat's up from 55 percent last year. The company's goal is 100 percent in three years by building faster distribution centers, providing suppliers with more sales data so they match their production to peak selling seasons, and weeding out slow movers. Wal-Mart has reduced slow movers to 20 percent of total inventory, down from 24 percent last year.
WAITING FOR THE RECESSION
The U.S. economy surged a hefty 5.5 percent for the July through September quarter, well above the advance estimate of 4.8 percent and extending the 8 1/2-year expansion. Sooner or later a recession is in the cards, according to most economists. However, it's not expected in 2000 and perhaps not even in 2001. When the downturn does come, it is expected to be shallow and short.